THE JOY OF SIX: Round Seven

The Joy Of SixTOUGH ON EVERYONE

AT this point, three days later, debating the merits of Friday’s Jon Mannah/ASADA story would probably only serve to reheat an emotional imbroglio which should be just started to cool down. That’s the last thing anyone needs. If Cronulla have written to ASADA, effectively dobbing themselves in over the administering of Peptides to Mannah, I’m glad I know about it and it wasn’t covered up by a well meaning journalist who was concerned about being maligned for writing it. These are the dilemmas most of us only face once in a career. There is a saying in tabloids: “a good display can turn a good story into a great story”.  “Display” is photos, headlines etc. But an over-the-top display can clearly also turn a worthy story into a community scandal.

A BRIDGE TOO FA’AOSO?

SHOULD repeat offenders within a single game be judged cumulatively? That is, should Richie Fa’aoso have been sent to the sin bin or even sent off after his second spear tackle on Greg Inglis last Friday? Referees coach Daniel Anderson said on the ABC yesterday that it was something which would be considered. In Super League they have a “general warning” signal (it looks like the whistler is casting a spell on the offending team) which basically means the next time anyone infringes, someone goes to the sin bin. There is some confusion over how long the warning lasts. But perhaps it is worth considering. Fa’aoso could have been dispatched for repeated infringements, even if the infringements happened to be foul play.

SIGNS, SIGNS, EVERYWHERE SIGNS

SET of Six hereby introduces a contest: fan sign of the year. And we have our first entrant in the banner brandished by a pair of Newcastle fans at Skilled Park yesterday: “Go Hard Willie”. @Muzza2501 Tweeted “At his age it should read: Please go hard Willie!! :)”We’ve not seen such excellence in the field of double entendres since St George Illawarra fans’ “Me So Hornby!”. Let’s see how many puns we can fit into the rest of this item. The sign was soon discovered by security and wasn’t up for long. It was so big it had to be handled by two people. And, in reference to our new contest …. it will take some beating.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST AP

IT’S fair to say that if Twitter and Instagram have a natural enemy, it’s the Canberra Raiders. The social media networks played a big role in Josh Dugan’s departure from the Green Machine and at the weekend, they blew coach David Furner’s cover over the return of Blake Ferguson from a fractured cheekbone.  Prop Brett White posted a picture of Ferguson on the plane to Townsville – which was interesting because Ferguson was supposedly not playing against North Queensland. “Got family up here so I made the trip with the boys! Still out till next week!’ Ferguson tweeted. Low and behold, when the team-sheets were posted at 4.25pm Saturday, Ferguson was on the wing for Sandor Earl. He insisted he did visit family – and was cleared to play on match eve. But if the Raiders do any social media training for players in future, perhaps it should perhaps be a simple message: “stay off it”.

SAM, SAM, $1 MILLION MAN

IS Sam Tomkins worth $1 million? Not while the salary cap is $5.85 million, no. But it will soon be $7 million – and Tomkins is the sort of man who puts bums on seats. Tomkins is bettered only by Billy Slater when it comes to broken field running – a fullback who can create opportunities like few others. But the club that can afford Tomkins may not be his best destination. Does Tomkins really need to come into a new competition and be relied upon immediately to win matches? St George Illawarra and Sydney Roosters would afford him a more gentle transition from Super League than the Warriors, based on the form of all three so far this season.

LOCATION, LOCATION

GOSFORD has now hosted more games this season that traditional venues like WIN Stadium, Leichhardt Oval and Campbelltown Stadium. The reason is simple: cash. Rugby league needs to compile a list of matches that don’t work where they are and farm them out in an organised fashion for a guaranteed return from venues and state governments next year. This can be factored into memberships – teams are already doing this. We shouldn’t accept sub-10,000 crowds anymore in this billion-dollar competition. In round 17, we have matches in Darwin, Perth and Mackay but these relocations are done in a piecemeal way. Let’s be organised. If we get the message out that you will lose your home game against Canberra or Melbourne or whoever if you don’t go, hopefully fans will respond.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

DISCORD 2012: Edition 45

By STEVE MASCORD
THERE are still a number of small indicators of cultural differences between Australia and the United Kingdom, even in this homegonised world.
The Australian penchant for chancing, maybe even for gambling, is exemplified thousands of times a day at ATMs. People form lines in front of each machine, trying to guess which will move more quickly. An older person or someone with lots of shopping at the front? Get out of that queue!
Here in England, almost without exception, people form one orderly line and split to whichever ATM (cashpoint, to most of them) becomes available first.
In recent weeks I have seen another phenomenon in England which I don’t think would ever occur in Australia: the masses having sympathy for the taxman.
When news broke that multi-nationals like Google, Amazon and Starbucks were avoiding tax by funnelling profits through their overseas affiliates, people were outraged to the extent of setting up Facebook action pages and organising boycotts.
“That’s schools and roads that weren’t being built” was the reasoning.
I know this might be a cliched way of looking at national stereotypes but my old AAP sports editor Bill Allan used to say cliches are there for a reason – there is inherent truth in them. And I find it hard to imagine too many Australians siding with the tax man in any circumstances.
Which is why the NSW government’s new policy on suburban grounds is interesting.
In the UK, the European Union’s plan to give money to wealthy professional soccer clubs was panned in the press this week. But Australians tend to pan governments for not giving professional sporting clubs money for ground upgrades.
I am not prepared to come out and say Leichhardt, Campbelltown, Brookvale, Penrith and Kogarah do not deserve more funding. In the short to medium term, they probably do. But in the end, clubs have the discretion to take their bigger games to bigger stadia. Do you, the tax- and rate- payer, want five or six Sydney Football Stadium’s to pop up around the city, one for each NRL club?
That is, if it comes out of your tax and rates … if it came from the NRL’s $1.025 billion TV rights then perhaps your answer would be different. It’s easy parochial mileage to bleat about the death of suburban grounds but the move away from them – just like the retreat from shoulder charges and playing concussed – is progress. Complain all you like, it’s going to happen.
Eventually, we need to let the government fund grassroots sport and let big time professional sport fund itself. John Grant keeps talking about the “business” of rugby league – relying less on taxpayer’s cash is one of the consequences of this change in focus.
I will say this: if rugby league cannot survive without poker machine income, it doesn’t deserve to survive at all.
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NEXT Monday is officially Sir Kevin Sinfield Day, in honour of England’s current captain.
The day has been declared by Leeds Rhinos so we know it will be observed worldwide. We all know that on Christmas Day we give presents. At Easter we give Easter eggs.
What should we do to mark Sinfield Day?
Perhaps, kick a goal – literally or figuratively. Either boot a Steeden between the posts at your local park or ask for a raise or get engaged.
Perhaps you could watch Seinfeld, since that’s how Kevin’s name was spelt in a match program during an early representative appearance.
Or shave your hair so you look like you’re balding, since BBC commentator Claire Balding said Sinfield was “the most impressive sportsman I’ve seen”.
Write in an tell Discord how you spent Kevin Sinfield Day.
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FEEDBACK now and thanks for all the comments, on various platforms including leaguehq.com.au and stevemascord.com.

read on

THE BIG ISSUE: #12

By STEVE MASCORD

MANY people in rugby league have questioned why six NSW clubs would hold meetings behinds the backs of the other ten franchises and the Independent Commission.

At one stage last year, there were even whispers of a breakaway if delays in setting up the independent commission continued. Now the IC is there, these sides are still meeting. Why?

One reason above all: stadium policy.

Despite the outcry a month ago when Shane Richardson (who made the comments when he popped over to Redfern Oval for coffee with journalists from three newspapers who were there for a training session) said all Sydney games should be played at Allianz or ANZ,  the process towards a watered-down version of this has continued apace.

The Big Issue can tell you in simple terms what these six clubs are talking about. They want the NRL to take over the regular season the way they now run finals. The idea is that instead of the big stadia doing deals with clubs, they do them with the league, who assign games according to how many people they think they will attract.

That’s how things work in the finals since St George Illawarra and Wests Tigers were forced to play at the SFS and thousands were locked out while the likes of Melbourne and North Queensland played finals before tiny crowds in Sydney.

Under the proposal, ANZ would have 25 to 30 games and the league – in consultation with the clubs – would have the power to say which 25 to 30 they are. As the daily press reported last week, these games would involve revenue sharing between the teams involved. Some games would continue to be played at suburban grounds. The clubs will ask the venues, in exchanged for better matches, to reduce drink and food prices.

There’ll be double headers. The league will decide how many games each year are played in Perth, Adelaide, Wellington, Darwin, Christchurch and the rest. Matches will be played in the country. The Warriors could end up not going through customs for months on end as teams come to them, elsewhere in New Zeaand.

Why do these clubs want to be told what to do?

Simple: because there are powerful political forces within that are hard to stand up to. It’s hard to tell denizens of Wollongong, Kogarah, Leichhardt and Campbelltown they are getting fewer matches – unless it is presented as a directive from above. It’s a case of “please tell us what to do so we can blame you”, to put it bluntly.

Why is it only six clubs? Well, Newcastle doesn’t count – there’s no point in them moving home games anywhere – but Penrith, Cronulla and Manly are now on board. So are the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust, who initially sat back and watched the whole process.

Don’t kid yourself these clubs don’t want to move games away from their home grounds to make more money. They do. But they don’t want you getting on their backs – so they are asking the NRL to make the hard decisions for them.

Believe it or not, the World Club Challenge is tied up in all this. Forget what you’ve read about America – if these si clubs get their way the WCC will be played in the pre-season in Australia next year involving eight teams. The power these clubs weild with stadia will help them negotiate favourable deals and good promotion for the competition.

But the clubs want to share the wealth with all 16 teams – not just the four involved – and will insist the Super League teams involved do likewise, even though three of the four European participants in the WCC will be the same each year for ages.

As we said here last week, each game has to be treated as an event to find its own audience.

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THE NRL is never going to put out a press release saying this, so I guess it’s got to be left up to us: coaches, you can bag referees as much as you like – just don’t question their integrity or use abusive language.

There’s been some consternation about Canberra coach David Furner being slugged $10,000 for his comments at Brookvale a couple of weeks back. As I journalist, I can’t support anything that inhibits free speech – that would be hypocritical.

But if I was running the NRL, I’d have exactly the rules they have now. If you ran a company, would you tolerate people under your jurisdiction getting on Twitter or Facebook and suggestion someone in your profession was dishonest or cheated? Would you allow one professional to call another in the same industry a “retard”, as Clint Greenshields recently did?

I think not.

But coaches can actually say a referee had a shocker, he got 10 things wrong, he should be dropped to reserve grade … you can rant for 10 minutes about how bad the match officials were. You just can’t used abusive language and you can’t suggest they had a preconception about the result or your team before they showed up – ‘cause that’s libellous.

So there you go, coaches – go for your lives …. within reason.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Weyman ‘Better Equipped’ For Setback

By STEVE MASCORD

LUCKLESS St George Illawarra prop Michael Weyman is emotionally better equipped to deal with a season-ending knee injury than he was earlier in his career, according to his agent.

Weyman, so often shown in a distressed state following injury setbacks that date back to the start of his career at Canberra, underwent surgery during the week for a torn cruciate ligament.

It’s the latest in a litany of wounds which leaves perhaps only North Queensland’s Brent Tate competing with Weyman for the title of the NRL’s unluckiest player.

“He’s a lot more mature than he was earlier in his career when he started getting a few injuries,’ said manager Steve Stone.

“When I spoke to him, I said that it’s just part of football, part of sport. He’s been there before. Technology is better than it’s ever been, when it comes to preventing injuries and speeding up recovery from them.”

Weyman and NSW’s Ben Creagh and Trent Merrin will be the highest profile absentees for the Dragons – expected to be boosted by the return of Jamie Soward – when they take on South Sydney at WIN Jubilee Stadium today in what could be a sellout.

If the new NRL stadiums policy is introduced next year, it’s possible Rabbitohs-Dragons matches will no longer be played at suburban venues after this afternoon.

But Dragons CEO Peter Doust told the Sun-Herald yesterday: “I don’t think there’s anything there to raise conjecture at this point – the whole of the game is looking at ways to grow the game and maximize our attendances.

“The League currently assigns venues in the finals. The clubs are having discussions about the approach to the entire season.

“We have two home grounds and we will always work to protect the interests of ticketed members at those venues.”

One option understood to have been discussed at NRL CEOs conferences would see Kogarah and Wollongong get four games each with the other four to be split between Allianz Stadium and ANZ Stadium. The Dragons have not signed on at WIN for next year and their lease at Kogarah does not stipulate how many games are played there, Doust said.

Of more immediate concern is the Dragons’ faltering attack, which has produced just 150 points this season.

But players don’t see this as a problem. “Not attack – I would say our execution hasn’t been up to scratch,” said centre Kyle Stanley.

“We’ve been working on that week-in and week-out and hopefully it pays off. I think we’ve got points in us. We Sowy back this week, hopefully we can showcase that. “

Prop Dan Hunt added: “We’re focusing on our starts. We can’t start like we did against Penrith, otherwise they’ll take the points off us.

“I’ve got to get the forwards going, maybe talk a little more and maybe lead by your actions. I’ve got to take that responsibily onto my own shoulders and I’m looking forward to it.”

The match gives a number of players on both sides who’ve enjoyed only limited involvement this season a chance to impress.

“It seems like a new squad but we’ve all been together training for a while now,” said Dragon Atelea Vea. “If anything, the boys will be excited to get out there together.

“I wouldn’t say there’s pressure. We all know we’ve got a job to do. We just have to get out there and get it done.”

Filed for: SUN-HERALD